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ruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away;" and while we thus contemplate the numberless benefits with which we are loaded, the high privileges to which we have been exalted, and the bright prospects we are permitted to entertain of a glorious immortality,—the love of gratitude will be charmed into existence, and fanned into a brighter flame, and will express itself, in the language of deep-felt obligation and elevated piety, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all bis benefits ?» « Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits ; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who heal. eth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies ; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things ; 80 that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.”
The love of gratitude has been represented, by some, as a sordid affection, tainted with selfishness. Such persons, however, would do well carefully to distinguish between love for the gift, and love for the person by whom it is conferred. To love the benefits imparted to us, without any corresponding affection towards the individual from whom we receive them, is the veriest seläshness. But the love of gratitude is an entirely distinct principle. It regards the gift as an indication of kindness on the part of the giver, and is in barmony with the universally admitted principle, " that love begets love,” that kindness is reflected back upon the individual who sheds bis kindness upon others. Now, may there not be this return of love, without at all detracting from the moral charac. ter of this amiable affection ? I am to love goodness for its own sake, though I may never have been the subject upon whom it was exercised. But, when I see that goodness di. rected towards myself, and pouring out its blessings in a full tide of benevolence upon my person, the love which I formerly bad for goodness, considered in the abstract, is now rendered much more intense, by the very circumstance of its haviny singled me out as the object of its beneficent operations. But, does my affection, on this account, partake of the character of selfishness? If it do, then will selfishness obtain a place in the paradise of God; for it is the song of gratitude ibat shall constitute the praise of the redeemed throng throughout eternity. (Rev. i. 5, 6.)
fni. Love to God includes delight in his bappiness. It has been said, that this feeling of delight in the divine blessednebs, or, in other words, benevolence towards himself, his purposes and his interests, can never enter as an element in. to our analysis of love to God, because he is entirely independent of any exercise of such benevolence. Good-will may be exercised towards our fellow-men, because they require it; but cannot be exercised towards the Supreme Being, who, in. stead of needing our good-will, is the fountain of all that we en. joy. This mode of reasoning, however plausible,is founded upon a wrong hypothesis. It supposes that we cannot have bene. volence for an individual without the perception of the need of its: exercise towards that individual. But any one, on a mo: menţ's reflection, will see that we may entertain good-will for à person whose happiness in no wise depends upon its exercise.;, and the more happy an individual is in himself, the greater will be our delight in that happiness ; ; so that our benevolence will just be in proportion as he is independent for his enjoyment upon others. Now, by the happiness of God, we mean that infinitę enjoyment which he has in his own infinite perfections, and the accomplishment of his purposes in the work of creation and providence;, and to take delight in his happiness, is just to sympathize with the joy of our Creator,
- to rejoice in the independent blessedness of Jehovah. What a sublime and elevating exercise, thus to hold a communion of holy delight with the source of all true happiness!
IV. Love to God implies filial fear. Every attentive stu. dent of the Bible knows that the fear of God is there used in two acceptations, entirely different from each other. There is a servile fear, as, when the Apostle says, “ Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear." Fear in this sense does not form an ingredient of love to God; for John
says, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear : he that feareth, is not made perfect in love.”. From the context, it appears that the fear here spoken of is synonymous with dread, which arises from a consciousness of guilt, and a sense of the danger of punishment. But the fear which constitutes an element of love, is a strong apprehension of the majesty and purity of God,-a high regard and veneration for bis person and authority. The fear of God, as used in this latter sense, is frequently represented, in Scripture, as the sum and substance of vital godliness,+ as the very essence of true religion. “Behold, the fear of the Lord,” says. Job, that is wisdom.' The Psalmist also expresses himself thus :$ 0, fear the Lord, ye his saints, for there is no want to them that fear him."....
T'he fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” &c. It is such fear as is spoken of in these and
other passages of Scripture, that is included in love to God, and might be exemplified by that filial fear with which a dutiful.child regards a highly venerated earthly parent.
V. Another element in love to God is a desire of appropriation. It we truly love any object, we will desire to possess it; and this desire will be proportionate to the purity and intensity of our affection. Now, if we love God supremely, with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the strength, and with all the understanding, we will not be satisfied until we are put in possession of the divine favour. We will not merely take complacency in his character, render gratitude for his goodness, and take delight in -bis happiness,--though these are essential elements in love to bis name, ---but will desire to make God our own, and will never be contented until we are able to adopt the language of appropriation, and say, with David, “ God is my strength and my portion for ever. If our love to God were such as the Scriptures enjoin, he would not be addressed by us merely as a God, a Saviour, a Redeemer ; but the language of our souls would be, my God, my Saviour, my Redeemer. To some, this idea of appropriating God to ourselves may seem rather presumptuous. How can the infinite, uncreated, independent, and immutable God become the portion of a finite, created, dependant, aud chargeable creature? It is a truth, which, if we believe the Scriptures, cannot be disputed. Though we may not be able to comprehend the in-dwelling of God in the heart of the believer, by bis Holy Spirit, yet we have the fact upon the authority of the Spirit bimself, that “ God is love, and he that dwell, eth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him." Reader, if you have God for your portion, you are safe, for time and eternity. Having thus considered the nature of love to God, let us now see the influence which it exercises over those in whom it exists. : . It animates obedience. It is impossible for those who love God not to obey him. It will be the ardent desire of all in whom this principle has been generated to please God; and in what way can we please him better, than by obeying his commands ? No matter how difficult these may seem to be ; no matter how unpleasant to human nature ; if love has taken possession of the soul, they will be executed with cheerfulness and alacrity. Love does all it can do, and is-sorry that it can not do more. To say that a person loves. God, and yet at the same time lives in the violation of any of bis commands, or in the wilful neglect of any known duty, is a palpable absurdity.
6 If ye
Can that child be said to love his parent who refuses to obey
It assimilates us to the divine likeness. We delight in the company, and are happy in the society of the friends whom we love ; and wbile we thus associate with them, we almost imperceptibly and unconsciously catch their manner and imbibe their spirit; so that a similarity of character is the invariable result of our friendly correspondence. The case is similar between us and the divine Being. If we love God supremely, we will delight in holding fellowship and communion with him, by means of prayer, the devotional reading of bis Word, and the ordinances of religion; and while we thus hold friendly intercourse through these means, likeness to-bim in all bis imitable perfections will be produced, -bis moral image will be stamped upon our character, the more intimate and uninterrupted our intercourse is, the more will we grow in confor. mity to his likeness. « Beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Not merely does this heaven-born principle assimilate us to God; it assimilates us, also, to angels, and to all virtuous and holy intelligences, throughout the amplitudes of creation.
It produces brotherly love. If we love God, we will love his image wherever it is to be found. “Every one that loveth him that begat, loveths him also that is begotten of him.” This is as natural and reasonable as it is scriptural
. Were a child presented to us whom we had never seen before, we would have a feeling of benevolence for it, as being one of the same
species with ourselves, descended from the same common parents, and as destined to the same immortal existence. But let us be told that this is the child of a friend whom we love very dearly, and will not our affection be greatly heightened by this very circumstance? We will now regard it with much more interest and attention;--we will delight to trace the features of our friend as they are depicted in its countenance, and just as these features become more and more visible, our love will be growing stronger and stronger; so that in proportion as we love our friend, will we love his offspring. There is something analogous to this between us and God, provided his love has been shed abroad in our hearts. - Suppose a man from Africa or America, or any other quarter of the globe, were introduced to us, we would have an affectionate regard for him, in common with all mankind. But let it be announced to us that he is a servant of God,—that he has been taken out of the family of Satan, and introduced as a member of that glorious family, of which Jesus is the elder brother, and with what different feelings will we regard him ?. Instead of regarding him merely as a son of Adam, he will be looked upon as a son of God by adoption, and an heir of a glorious inheritance. Brotherly love
in the sense in which the Seriptures employ this term, will now occupy the place of those benevolent feelings which we formerly exercised towards him We begin to observe the tenor of his conversation, his intercourse with the world, his walk and conduct through life; and as far as he exhibits in his character those
which shone so conspicuously in the life and character of Christ, so will our love be towards him : the more he is conformed to the Divine image, the more will we love him in a word, the measure of our love to God will be the measure of our love to him. Let us, then, try the reality of our love to God by the love which we bear to his believing people. This is the touchstone by which the world will judge of our discipleship Hereby,'' says Christ;6. shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."., And it is equally the test by which we may try the genuineness of our own Christianity.
Hereby. we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.". Let the existence of this elevated affection towards the children of God be manifested by our taking delight in their society; reproving and admonishing them, in the spirit of meekness ; forgiving their injuries ; tenderly sympathising with them amid all their joys and soru rows'; extending the hand of kindness to alleviate their disa